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Surprise & Delight Marketing: The Art of Attracting Loyal Customers


When it comes to creating a unique customer experience, a little can go a long way. Who doesn’t enjoy being pleasantly surprised by an unexpected coupon code, free gift, or hand-written thank you note?

Surprise and delight marketing can help strengthen customer relationships, and we’re going to look into why that is, and how you can successfully introduce elements of this into your business to drive sales, as well as customer engagement and loyalty.

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What is surprise & delight marketing?

Surprise and delight marketing is a way of engaging with your customers that fosters a sense of connection, and ultimately serves to nurture the customer relationship. Surprise and delight can look different depending on the business, but often manifests as unexpected acts of kindness, rewards, access or events.

The term is said to have originated with Apple, and has since been confirmed in viral TikTok videos by a former Apple Store employee. In these videos, Tiktok user @Tanicornerstone reveals the alleged policy that allowed employees to reward a certain quota of customers with perks. 

"I used to work for Apple. So the first thing; rude customers, like we got some psychos in that store, but if you're rude to the geniuses or the concierge people, you will get your problem fixed most likely - however you are going to pay for it," the former employee explained.

‘But then you come across some really amazing people, and there was a term that Apple used called '‘Surprise & Delight’', so essentially every genius and staff member had a quota that allowed them to go above and beyond and surprise customers. A lot of people would come in with water-damaged phones, and you’re not allowed to replace those without a fee. However, the geniuses used '‘Surprise & Delight’' to give certain people a free replacement.’

Going above and beyond

While surprise and delight marketing isn’t necessarily a new concept, it’s one that brands have become increasingly creative with as a means of standing out in crowded, competitive markets.

Similar to Apple’s secret policy, cosmetic brand Lush is known for its ‘Random Acts of Kindness’, which often takes the form of free gifts for both in-store and online purchases, as well as generous handouts of product samples. These heartwarming experiences are often shared online, and play a part in positively influencing customers’ perceptions of the brands.

Surprise and delight ideas for customers

Depending on your business, there are many ways you can show appreciation for your customers. As a small business, using the element of surprise to your advantage can help create positive emotions and enhance your customers’ experience, leading to increased customer retention and advocacy. 

Personalized experiences

Surprise and delight your customers by providing personalized experiences. This can include customized product recommendations, personalized messaging, and exclusive deals based on customer preferences and behavior's. 

Do this in your email marketing by creating unique workflows for repeat customers, and potential customers depending on where they’re at in their purchasing journey. This can be achieved through tools such as Mailchimp or ActiveCampaign.

For further personalization options for ecommerce websites, help new customers navigate your product range online with a quiz. Gamify the shopping process to help align their preferences with relevant items. Up Circle does this with their Skincare Quiz, but the concept can easily be applied to everything from food, fashion, and more.


Handwritten notes

A handwritten note is a personal touch that can leave a lasting impression on customers. Small businesses can send handwritten notes to thank customers for their patronage and loyalty, or acknowledge special occasions like birthdays, and anniversaries.

Unexpected gifts

Offering unexpected gifts can create a memorable experience for customers. Small businesses can surprise and delight their customers by sending complimentary products, offering free samples of new and existing products, or coupon codes and vouchers to use in-store.

Another way of rewarding repeat customers could be to offer them the opportunity to test new products before they launch, and give feedback in exchange for free samples. Getting loyal customers involved in the process of choosing which products launch first, or make a seasonal comeback is a great way to show you value their opinions.

Social media interactions

Small businesses can use social media platforms to engage with customers and surprise them with unexpected responses, such as sharing user-generated content, offering exclusive discounts, and responding to customer feedback.

This is also a great way to familiarise your followers with your brand voice, and done well can generate positive organic PR. Brands that have done this well include…

Innocent Smoothies

Known for their cheeky tone of voice, Innocent Smoothies engage with their customers through humour, playful interactions and interactive, highly shareable content. 

They also run knitting events and initiatives to help raise money for charity AgeUK, for which the knitted hats on their smoothie bottles have become one of their more quirky USPs.


Who Gives a Crap

The company making the banal subject of toilet paper funny, this is another brand that’s not afraid to be silly on socials, and engage in like with its customers, while pushing ethical projects such as donating 50% of their projects to building toilets in underfunded areas globally. 


Recently, Who Gives a Crap ran an initiative to soothe the heartbroken by encouraging customers to mail in their ex’s love letters to be recycled into toilet paper. It was fun, yet functional marketing, that provided a welcome and refreshing change to the sappier posts clogging people’s feeds leading up to Valentine’s Day.


This razor brand is a bit different from the rest. Estrid highlights their customers’ choice to embrace what works for them, and pushes inclusivity above all.

Their recent ‘Human Renaissance’ exhibition places modern women in iconic pieces of art, reimagining traditional beauty ideals and encouraging customers to recreate their own and embrace their bodies in the name of self-love.


Surprise and delight marketing campaigns

Surprise and delight marketing campaigns are designed to create a positive emotional response among customers. Small businesses can launch campaigns that involve social media contests, pop-up events, and surprise giveaways.




Though on a much larger scale and budget, one successful surprise and delight campaign was the Airbnb Night At, where the company transformed unique properties into one-night sleepover accommodations. Customers could win the opportunity to stay the night everywhere from a floating house on the River Thames, the Paris Catacombs, Dracula’s Castle, a shark aquarium, or even the Great Barrier Reef! 

Another great example is the Nike Reactland, an interactive and immersive experience that enabled customers to try out new sneakers on a virtual running track.

Keep your customers on their toes

By creating positive emotional connections with customers, small businesses can differentiate themselves from their competitors and foster a loyal customer base.

We hope some of the above has sparked your imagination. And remember: whether big or small, small acts of kindness and appreciation can go a long way in making your customers feel valued.

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